Burls can be safely removed from standing timber without risking adverse effects to the health of the tree. This particular harvest came from a stand of trees on farmland near the Conestoga Creek in Lancaster County, PA
After peeling the bark from the outside surface of the bark, a flat section is created on what will become the bottom of the finished product. I then glue a block of wood onto this surface, which allows the burl to be firmly secured in my Rockwell Jawhorse workstation throughout the carving process. I start by removing as much wood as possible with a chainsaw, while taking care to not cut too deep at any point, thereby avoiding the risk of cutting through the what will be the outside of the bowl. I use a Stihl model designed for professional arborists, as it is lightweight yet well built, and allows a higher level of control than a normal chainsaw.
I prefer doing as much of the carving as possible while the wood is still "green," as it becomes much more difficult after the wood has dried. The challenge with this approach is avoiding the cracking and/or checking that would normally occur during the drying process. While the nature of the growth patterns present in a burl make it less susceptible to checking, it does not entirely rule out the possibility. So, the first step in avoiding checking is to carve away as much wood as possible, creating as thin a wall as possible. This reduces the amount of pressure that results from the drying process, thereby reducing the possibility of checking. The second step is to enclose the carved bowl in several paper shopping bags, as this creates a self-regulating micro climate on the inside that is nearly ideal for drying. Not that these two steps completely eliminate the possibility of a piece being ruined by checking during the drying process, but they go a long way towards reducing the possibility (not to mention being a great way of reusing the Ten Thousand Villages shopping bags that end up in the recycling bins).
I will likely need to allow at least six - eight weeks of time for this bowl before it has dried enough to allow the final sanding & finishing processes.
As Tinkerer-in-Chief, I enjoy getting lost in the process of creating unique works of art from materials that would otherwise be considered to be of little or no value. Hopefully these pages will allow some visibility into this world